September 08, 2007

Review:Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
by Robert Louis Stevenson
86 pgs.
First Sentence:
Mr. Utterson the lawyer was a man of a rugged countenance that was never lighted by a smile; cold, scanty and embarrassed in discourse; backward in
sentiment; lean, long, dusty, dreary and yet somehow lovable.

Who hasn't heard the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? It is a cultural icon of sorts. I remember Bugs Bunny and other cartoons making references to it. So there is hardly anything new I could add to the tale except my own perception.

I had not realised it was such a small novella or I might have tackled it long ago. My B&N copy is 269 pages long. I hadn't noticed until I sat down to read it that under the title it says "and Other Stories." In fact, there are 6 stories and a myriad of other reference tools that are very helpful to understanding the story and the author.

An interesting bit of trivia that I hadn't known before is that the book and subsequent plays were extremely popular until Jack the Ripper started terrorizing the streets of London. One particularly powerful actor, Richard Mansfield, did such a magnificent job in the stage role of Jekyll and Hyde that he was accused of being the Ripper himself.

The book was also the public introduction of the idea of a serial killer who lived among the elite by day and killed by night. There were a flood of copycat stories printed immediately after it's publication.

The story itself was easy to follow. It is told by Mr. Utterson, a close friend to Dr. Jekyll. We learn of the intimate details as he investigates this strange Mr. Hyde and his hold on the financially secure(and then some) doctor of science. The last chapter is a letter written to Mr. Utterson by Dr. Jekyll in explanation of the identity of Mr. Hyde. It is quite an effective way of writing, or it would have been if I hadn't already known the secret.

This was my first selection for the RIP II Challenge. A long with all the scary short stories I am off to an eerie but satisfying start. The Phantom of the Opera sits waiting by my reading spot to be read next. It's sitting next to another book that I picked up last weekend called Poems Bewitched and Haunted put out by Everyman's Library Pocket Poets. As I find selections that are appropriate I will post them, so stay tuned.


Becky said...

I really enjoyed this one. I agree with you. If I had known it was this short, I would have read it years ago. :)

Ana S. said...

I didn't know about Richard Mansfield and Jack the Ripper. That is fascinating stuff!

Petunia said...

Becky-I'm sure glad RIP II came around and got me reading it now or who knows how long I would have put it off till.

Nymeth-Isn't that quite interesting? There is actually a lot for discussion in this book.

Kimmie said...

I have this on my TBR list. I thnk I'll read it after I finish Don Quixote. I'm sure I'll be ready for a shorter book.

Trish @ Love, Laughter, Insanity said...

You know, I saw this the other day at Half Price books and passed it up because I thought it was abridged; I dind't realize it was a novella! Interesting tidbit about Jack the Ripper!!

Petunia said...

Kimmie-I read Anne of Green Gables when I finished DQ and was so grateful to have a light and quick read after that monster.

Trish-I wonder how many people don't realize how small a book it is?

Framed said...

A small book sounds good to me right now. Unfortunately, most of my R.I.P. books are massive. I will keep this mind for next year. Good review and very interesting facts to go along with it.

Petunia said...

Thanks Framed. I knew I wouldn't be the only one making a list for next year already.

Anonymous said...

I love this book so much! Happy to hear that you've enjoyed it. :)

I really had no idea that the story became less popular when Jack the Ripper started. It makes sense, though, when you think about. Interesting tidbit indeed. I'll have to add that to my mass of random useless knowledge. ;)

Petunia said...

Exactly! Very interesting trivia.